By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

A 4.6-acre parcel of land with access to the Clark Fork River and the Milwaukee Trail received approval as open space on Wednesday and will go before a joint city-county board for a final vote next month.

The Kolendich-Grove Street Open Space Acquisition sits west of Reserve Street within the Clark Fork corridor open space cornerstone – an area identified by Missoula's open space plan as a high-priority area for conservation.

The full acquisition cost with fees included sits at roughly $320,000.

“One of the things that's exciting, unique and special about this property is that it leverages a significant amount of conservation that's happened in this area over the last decade,” said Elizabeth Erickson, the city's open space acquisitions attorney. “You can really see just how this property in the larger context provides this larger opportunity.”

Calling it a keystone property, the parcel of land sits at the nexus of past open-space acquisitions, including the 75-acre Clouse property – an island parcel acquired by the city in 2016. The Kolendich parcel would provide public access to the Clouse property by an existing bridge.

Erickson said acquisition of the Kolendich parcel would also enable the city to extend the Milwaukee Trail further west. The trail currently dead ends at the property line on Grove Street.

Extending the trail is included in a number of city plans, including the 2006 Open Space Plan and the 2011 long-range transportation plan. Erickson said an engineering survey and safety improvements on the bridge would be required before public use.

“The Milwaukee Trail represents years of work,” said Erickson. “The long-term goal would be to connect this trail all the way west to Idaho. The immediate vision is to at least get it to Mullan (Road). I like to think about little projects like this in this much larger regional context.”

Frank Kolendich said his family have owned the property for nearly a century. When he was younger, the parcel was used as a truck garden, and his family sold vegetables throughout Missoula.

If approved, the family would retain naming rights for a landmark or portion of the property to honor their grandparents. They would donate their ownership interest in the bridge.

“We're pretty tickled that we could connect this property together,” said Kolendich. “My parents and grandparents spent so much time there, it would be special to attach the name. I think we've worked on this for a couple years.”

While members of the City Council expressed concern about the dwindling funds left in the city's portion of the 2006 Open Space Bond, the Kolendich acquisition received unanimous approval.

Its access to the Clark Fork River and the potential it provides to extend the Milwaukee Trail pleased Ward 6 council member Michelle Cares, who lives nearby.

“It would be amazing to continue on this keystone property, and that's just a fairly myopic view," she said. “When we talk about this in a regional perspective, there's so many bigger impacts, and it can just do so much more.”

A joint meeting between the Missoula County commissioners and City Council is set for Feb. 27.

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at